Unless you are a hardcore fan like I am, you probably have missed the happenings in the Richie Kotzen camp over the last 3 decades. You may know him as a “guitar god”. You may remember he was a member of Poison and Mr. Big. You may know he is in The Winery Dogs with Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy and that this supergroup released an INCREDIBLE 2 albums (The Winery Dogs and Hot Streak). What you may not know is that there is 29+ years where Richie Kotzen released 40+ albums (studio, live, and compilation combined) in a variety of different genres from Jazz to Rock. I have over 200 Richie Kotzen songs in my iTunes library and there is a ton more I need to find.
Salting Earth by Richie Kotzen (21st solo studio album)
Produced and mixed by: Richie Kotzen
The opening track “End Of Earth” opens with a weird Middle-Eastern/East Indian vibe. Almost sounds like a guitar being tuned turning into the opening riff. The song has a dirtier mix that sets the mood perfectly. After the first 90 seconds of unique melody in the verse, the song kicks into a catchy and memorable chorus which is consistent in all Richie Kotzen songs. The song ends with a beautiful haunting solo (which is also vintage Kotzen) that has several twists and turns.
“Thunder” has all the Rock elements you would want with a little taste of Grunge. The verses have an Alice In Chains type melody and the chorus (is once again…) super catchy. Some fans/critics feel that Richie’s vocal tone and style is similar to Chris Cornell (R.I.P.). That definitely stands true in this tune. Richie also has a knack of harmonizing with himself several octaves above the lead vocal track which only enhances the overall vocals on the album. The guitar solo reminds you that he is an extremely underrated virtuoso.
The 3rd track “Divine Power” has more of a Blues feel. The bass and drums make you take notice and gives the song a deeper sound. Who is drumming and playing bass? More on that later but I will tell you that the bottom end instruments are killer throughout the whole album.
Richie has an amazing Pop sensibility. I believe that he should have 15-20 Billboard 200 hits over his lengthy career. His music really isn’t marketed to be hits and I’m not sure that is important to him anyway. That being said, “I’ve Got You” is a bonafide HIT. Starting with this song, the mix gets a bit brighter on the rest of the record. Awesome melody, chorus and lyrics including, “Everybody knows I’m not a lucky man, but I’ve got you that loves me…”. If you are reading this review and you happen to have a radio show, give this song a spin. Your fans will enjoy the track.
It’s hard to put a label on Richie’s music. If you ask 5 people to classify his music, you’ll get 5 different answers. Songs like “My Rock” and “Cannon Ball” are more R&B, almost Easy Listening, with an incredible vocal delivery. The piano melody will be stuck in your head and you’ll be humming these songs without realizing it. Why isn’t this guy all over the radio?!! Who is playing the piano?
So, do you love Prince (R.I.P.)? Well, there is a song for you too! “This Is Life” is a Prince-inspired tune that confirms Richie should be considered in the conversation when discussing the best voices in Rock. Add to that a beautiful guitar solo and you have one of the best songs on the album.
Where is the Winery Dogs type stuff? Well, I offer you “Make It Easy”. Bluesy tune with gospel type backing vocals and a soulful power lead vocal that makes the song truly memorable.
My favorite track on the album “Meds” has a 70s/Blues vibe. “Tell me how I woke up next to you, I don’t remember coming here…” is a note straight from my personal diary (which he has done before, several times…where did he get my diary? Hmmm?). This song can be played in a dance club and go over well.
The closing track “Grammy” is a John Mayer type acoustic song that is a perfect end to the album. “I am opened up like a book, got my heart on my sleeve take a look.…”, “I don’t understand me, and neither does my family…” is pure perfection lyrically. I think it’s cool when a “guitar god” can also write pop melodies that a vast audience would enjoy.
Who is playing bass, piano, drums and the Vintage Vibe? Except for Julia Lange doing some backing vocals (mainly on “Make It Easy”), the rest is ALL Richie Kotzen. So, how do you pull this music off live? Especially since he plays several genres of music and normally goes on tour as a 3-piece entity? Well, you must have outstanding musicians. The touring lineup of Richie Kotzen (guitar, piano), Dylan Wilson (bass) and Mike Bennett (drums) do an amazing job of keeping the recorded music true to its core.
Overall: Whether you are a fan of the Blues, heavy guitars, vocals, guitar solos, R&B, piano, Vintage Vibe, soulful lyrics, etc. then Richie has something for you on Salting Earth. “I’ve Got You”, “Meds”, “Grammy” and “Make It Easy” would be radio hits…. if radio didn’t suck so much…. but that’s a conversation for another time. This album is a MUST HAVE!
So, can you tell I’m a fan? Thanks for reading. Pooni out!